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'Kids going vegan need other supplements as well', says nutritionist

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Vegan diets have become popular among children

Vegan diets have become popular among children

Vegan diets have become popular among children

Parents who introduce their children to a vegan diet need to be aware of the pitfalls associated with it, a nutritionist has warned.

Ireland has experienced an upsurge in the popularity of veganism as it is now viewed by many as the cool thing to do.

The American and British Dietetic Associations points out that a well-planned vegan diet can decrease the risk of heart disease and certain cancers and lower cholesterol.

However, experts disagree on whether it is suitable for children.

Mary Carmody, who was named Nutritional Consultant Of The Year for 2019 at the Irish Enterprise Awards, believes such diets need to be backed up with appropriate vitamins and minerals.

"Vegan diets are healthy once we support them with vitamins and minerals that can be harder to attain in such diets," she said.

"Children need adequate nutrients to help them grow. I suppose more education is needed, as diet is crucial for good health.

"They need good amounts of good fats and good-quality protein, vitamins - especially A, B and C - and minerals, including zinc and calcium, to support them, so the diet is balanced."

When it comes to vegan Easter eggs, Ms Carmody added: "Easter eggs in general are not healthy as they are full of sugar and the bad fats associated with the milk chocolate.

"Quite a lot of my clients, especially children, who do food intolerance tests with me, find that cow's milk comes up.

"By staying off the milk, it makes a huge improvement to their eczema, runny, drippy noses, mood, as well as immune systems being run down.

Trend

"I feel this is why a lot of my clients may go for vegan Easter eggs, as the cow's milk ones are not suitable."

The mum believes children and adolescents are not hell-bent on going vegan, but are influenced by certain factors.

"I don't think many kids are turning to veganism - not the children of the people I see in my nutrition clinic or in companies - unless they are aware from seeing their parents or friends doing it," she said.

"It's possible there are adolescents turning to veganism as a trend or if they have received nutritional advice to do so to improve medical symptoms.

"The dangers are not getting sufficient nutrients for the body or a balanced diet to support good health and growing kids.

"My family and kids prefer variety in our diets, so will not be doing it full-time.

"We eat a lot of vegan food, but we like more variety. It's healthy for everyone once they get adequate vitamins B12 and D, iron, calcium and so on.

"However, shops and restaurants aren't really equipped for this yet, so it's very difficult to maintain, particularly for kids and teenagers at the moment."

Ms Carmody, who is based in Cork, added that people can grasp at straws because they have put on weight and are looking for a quick fix, so they feel veganism may work.

"It could be work-life balance, stress, food intolerance, sluggish thyroid or medical conditions that may be causing this," she added.

"Trying veganism is another way to go or to maybe get attention or help them feel significant or different."